How To Fix Patchy Tan. 5 Ways To Fix a Streaky, Bad Fake Tan

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Having tanned skin is something that is loved by many beauty enthusiasts. An all-over golden glow does more than just enhance our appearance — bronzed skin will also hide flaws on your skin. But sometimes a fake tan goes off the rails.

In this article, I’ll go over how to fix a patchy tan.

Sometimes the result of fake tanning doesn’t turn out the way you envisioned. It’s happened to me many times: dark patches, light streaks, tanning solution on my palms or the soles of my feet.

Sigh. You name it!

In this article, I’ll share with you how to fix patchy tan, so that you’ll be happier with the skin you’re in.


How To Fix Patchy Tan

If you’ve got areas of excess tan solution where your skin got too dark, then you can try to lighten those uneven areas. This occurs frequently on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, the elbows, knees, ankles , etc.

See this guide for targeting those areas particularly.

1. Buff Areas With Excess Tanner

Gently buff the areas with a washcloth or mild exfoliator to pull off some of the dead skin in the area. This will take off some of the tanner from those spots, and hopefully balance the look.

2. Fill In The Gaps in a Patchy Fake Tan

If you simply missed a spot and have patches of un-tanned skin, you have a few options. You can apply a bronzer in a close shade to the area and just roll with it, using the bronzer to smooth out the transition colors.

If it’s a large area, it may be worth applying the additional fake tan solution to the bare spots in an effort to balance it out.

3. Use a Gradual Tanner

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Gradual tanning solutions are useful in fixing patchy, streaky tans. These products work differently than a typical fake tan mousse, and are applied in layers.

Gradual tanners like Beauty By Earth are buildable. They can be applied and reappled daily, and the color will gradually darken. This can be quite useful when trying to match a color without going overboard.

4. Use a Tanning Mitt and Back Strap When Applying Your Tanner

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While it is possible to apply self-tanner without a mitt, it’s not a good idea. You’re more likely to end up with a patchy or streaky tan if you skip your tanning mitt!

The tanning mitt will apply your self-tanner evenly, and the back strap is key if you don’t have a friend to help you with your back.

It will also help you avoid getting excess pigment on your palms, and having that unnatural fake-tan-hand look.


If All Is Lost: Remove Your Fake Tan

One way to fix your patchy tan situation is to try to get back to baseline. Exfoliate the darkened areas with a scrub to remove much of the self tanner. You can use the scrub to work into your skin, and remove any dry patches before rinsing off.

You could even make your own scrub by combining equal parts of olive oil and sugar.

There are a couple of other all-natural remedies that you can use to fade out the darker and patchy areas of your fake tan, and you probably already have one of them in your kitchen — baking soda and lemons, combined with a good soak in the tub.

All you need to do is simply mix the juice of one lemon with about 3-4 tablespoons of baking soda until it becomes a thick paste. 

Next, you’ll need to apply the paste to your patchy parts, and then let it sit on your skin for about 5-10 minutes. The baking soda will work to soften your skin, while the acidic properties of the lemon juice will bleach out your patchy areas. 

When you’re done, you simply wipe off the paste with a wet washcloth or alternatively rinse it all off in the shower.

Patch Works

As well as taking the steps we’ve outlined above, you can also follow these simple rules when you decide to next apply your fake tan so that you can avoid having patchy parts.

For instance, you will do yourself a big favor by prepping your skin properly beforehand, making sure that it is well moisturized so that you will eliminate the possibility of developing a patchy tan. Keeping your skin hydrated and moisturized is key!

You will do yourself a big favor by prepping your skin properly beforehand, making sure that it is well moisturized so that you will eliminate the possibility of developing a patchy tan.

One way to do this is to lather your limbs with aloe vera gel, which is a great way to hydrate your skin, while its high water content can work to make your fake tan last even longer

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And once you apply your tanning product, if you wipe away any excess liquid, and then use a hairdryer on the cool setting to dry your skin, then this will help to eliminate any patches from developing and dry off any extra product. 

Alternatively, you could use a self-tanning mist instead of your usual product, which will give your skin a more bronzed appearance and the illusion of a more even sun-kissed glow in a quick and easy spray.

St.Tropez Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Body Mist  is an award-winning vegan tanning water that contains vitamins C and D that you simply spritz on to get your glow on.

Containing 95% natural ingredients, and hyaluronic acid, this tanning water blends well into your skin to create a sunkissed glow in one application.


Why Do I Have A Patchy Self-Tan?

Basically, the easiest way to ensure that you don’t get a bad self tan is to make sure that you properly exfoliate your body and/or face beforehand.

Exfoliation Is The Key Prep Step

A fake tan occurs as a chemical reaction to the chemical DHA on the outermost layer of skin called the stratum corneum. This layer consists of dead skin cells that will be shed over the next several days. By exfoliating properly before your fake tan, you will even out that layer as much as possible.

A patchy tan will develop when there’s an accumulation of dead skin cells on the parts of the body that are not well hydrated, and are therefore dry and flaky. 

Dry skin and fake tanner don’t mix!

If you don’t exfoliate these places well enough during your preparation, then when you apply your self-tanning product, it will leave behind unsightly patchy, streaky, or blotchy areas, because of the dead skin cell buildup. 

And obviously, you don’t want this to happen, because it’s not so appealing, especially when you were envisioning a healthy and golden glow to your skin.

Therefore, the next time you decide to apply a fake tanning product, make sure that your face and body have been properly exfoliated. 

The next time you decide to apply a fake tanning product, make sure that your face and body have been properly exfoliated.

Shave, Shower, and Cleanse Before Your Fake Tan

Shaving before your fake tan is always good practice. Shaving will exfoliate your skin as well, and it’s hard to get a clean, even fake tan with hairy legs.

It might also be the case that you had another product on your skin that was laying on the surface, and so reacted with the self-tanning formula. 

For instance, things like oil-based creams, lotions, and other moisturizers, as well as deodorants and perfumes that are sitting on your skin can cause it to become patchy when you apply a fake tanning product on top.

However, if you’ve already applied your self-tan, and you have weird and discolored patches that you want to get rid of, then there are a few things you can do to even out the appearance of your skin tone — and they’re all easy to do at home.


Final Thoughts

When you apply a self-tanning product, the last thing you want to deal with is unsightly patchy skin as a result. But without properly preparing your skin beforehand, then this is highly likely to happen. Make sure you exfoliate before you tan, and follow the directions on your tanner as to when to shower. Typically I recommend showering 8 hours after applying fake tan, but it depends on the product.

If your fake tan is a true unfixable disaster, here is a guide on how to fully remove fake tan.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).